2 out of 5
Directed by: Joe Menendez
The simple out-there notion of Nickelodeon making a movie based on one of their classic game shows (okay, in a world with movies using Battleship and Ouija as their base, perhaps not so out there) certainly earns Legends of the Hidden Temple enough good merit for a casual check-out. But even that sentence somewhat belays something important that the effort doesn’t know how to resolve: Who’s the movie for? Though obviously different in execution from the recent Double Dare special, we’re dealing with a particular era of Nick which is nostalgic for many, but pretty different from what we’d see nowadays. The DD special reconciled that by pretty much aiming for its adult audience, trading potential ratings for a low-rent approach that lacked some pizzazz but nailed the fun. LotHT, though, has all the family-friendly, kid-rebellion, dumb-humored hallmarks of a kids’ flick, that then takes questionable asides to nod to its original audience before scooting sharply back into cheese all territory. This prevents it from being all that much of anything: Nostalgic, silly, exciting, etc. It’s a hodgepodge of repetitive references and hokey scripting. For every iota of creativity – the statue, the kid strapping on pads for the temple run – it backs it up by mauling the moment with hammy morality (a funny bit with the silver monkey statue goes on for about five minutes too long and then gets bookended with a read-it-off-a-cereal-box discussion about family) or simply not capitalizing on the opportunity beyond the wink.
Temple arranges its premise simply but effectively: The game show we remember was, in a way, history, and there’s a legitimate temple – that no one’s been able to enter – that also happens to be the centerpiece of a vacation park which our featured family is visiting. There’s the idealistic, trouble-making kid who’s obsessed with the temple, the funny, bumbling kid, and their straight-and-narrow older sister who’s supposed to be watching them while their parents cavort parently. Of course they find their way into the temple, and then there’s a padded – but again, contextually feasible – explanation of Olmec, the history of the temple and its inhabitants, and a ticking clock goal of retrieving a pendant to save the temple and then escape. The exposition would be validated if things kicked in to silly gear thereafter, but as mentioned, the tone keeps getting botched and we’re relentlessly slowed down by attempts at character dialogue and further – totally unnecessary – plotting. The actors don’t give it much life, bit I can’t imagine they had much direction of the entire project couldn’t figure out its aims.
Conceptually valid approach, but lacks any defining element for whichever audience. I guess I’m glad they tried, though.